NJ Labor And Employment Law

The New Jersey Labor and Employment Law Blog is authored by Jay S. Becker and Joseph C. DeBlasio, shareholders in the Labor and Employment Law Practice Group, with support from the associates in the Group. It is dedicated to provide news and updates regarding all labor and employment matters throughout New Jersey.

Anti-Bias Policy Alone Not Enough To Shield Employers From Liability

March 7, 2011 | No Comments
Posted by admin

A recent New Jersey Appellate Division decision emphasizes that a written anti-discrimination policy, standing alone, is not enough to provide a safe haven to employers from discrimination claims.  In Allen v. Adecco, Inc., A-1708-09 (Jan. 27, 2011), a New Jersey Appellate Division panel reversed a grant of summary judgment and reinstated the plaintiff’s sexual harassment claim against University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (“UMDNJ”) concluding that the trial court did not confirm whether UMDNJ’s policy was effective. 

While the court below concluded that UMDNJ was entitled to judgment because it had an “anti-harassment policy”, and it promptly addressed plaintiff’s complaint, the Appellate Division disagreed finding genuine factual disputes as to whether UMDNJ’s policy meets the standards necessary to defeat plaintiff’s claims.  With respect to UMDNJ’s policy, the Appellate Division found factual disputes existed as to: (1) publication – specifically whether the policy was made known to the plaintiff; (2) training – the plaintiff received none and the alleged harasser who was regularly trained was not familiar with the content of the policy; and, (3) monitoring and sensing mechanisms – not only was there no evidence of effective monitoring and sensing mechanisms, but there was evidence suggesting that any mechanisms were ineffective.  Accordingly, it is not enough to merely have a policy in place; rather, the employer must be able to prove that it has promulgated and supported an “active anti-harassment policy” that extends beyond the distribution of a policy set forth in writing.

This decision emphasizes that the mere existence of anti-harassment policies will not automatically shield employers from liability.  It serves as a reminder to New Jersey employers that additional steps need be taken to ensure that company policies are effective and up to date, including anti-harassment training and effective monitoring and sensing mechanisms.  While a company’s overall approach to its employment-related policies (including but not limited to an effective written policy), can in some instances provide it a safe haven from discrimination claims, a minimalist approach focusing only on the mere existence of a written policy is not enough in light of the New Jersey Appellate Division’s recent ruling in Allen v. Adecco, Inc.


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